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Guard’s Success in Y’town Merits Longer Deployment - The Vindicator

Early reviews of the Ohio National Guard’s attack on urban blight in Youngstown are in, and most of them are nothing short of blockbuster. House by house and block by block, about 40 members of the 1192nd Engineer Co. of Ravenna have come to the aid of the city with crushing force. In well-coordinated maneuvers that began July 10 and that will end Saturday, some of our state’s finest citizen soldiers are expected to demolish 28 homes in the vicinity of Hudson and Sheridan avenues on the South Side. Their work is making a tangible contribution to the yeoman’s job of clearing thousands of abandoned, decaying, unsafe and unhealthy structures in Youngstown. For that progress, we issue a thanks and a plea to officials at the U.S. Department of Defense. First, we thank them for approving this summer’s most productive two-week deployment. Second, we urge them to authorize a much longer deployment in 2018 to clear ten times as many blighted structures, as city leaders envision.

This summer’s short-term experimental mission, however, proved long enough to shed light on the arsenal of strategic gains the mission is accomplishing. First, in sheer dollars and sense, the guardsmen’s volunteer work is saving the cash-strapped city an estimated $159,000 in demolition costs, according to Abigail Beniston, housing code enforcement and blight remediation superintendent for Youngstown. Those saved dollars can be allocated to razing other dilapidated buildings or toward other critical municipal needs. Second, the inner-city deployment provides a viable and productive training ground for members of the Ravenna-based company of the Army National Guard. That unit specializes in the skillful use of heavy machinery, and few machines are more hulking than the imposing bulldozers, cranes and excavators used in razing decrepit homes. The talents unit members hone in Youngstown then could be applied to a military scenario, where skillful structure demolitions can prove life-saving on the battlefield by denying shelter and supplies to enemy forces. The well-deserved appreciation and compliments from neighbors also enhance the overall public perception of the guard, in particular, and the American military, in general.

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